Theodore Kosloff & Cecil B. Demille: Meet Madam Satan

Debra Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The essay explores a rare and unknown 40-year professional and personal relationship between Russian ballet dancer Theodore Kosloff (1882-1956) and Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) told through the prism of the making of DeMille's Madam Satan (MGM 1930). It tracks Kosloff's colorful career as a dance entrepreneur, from his Bolshoi Ballet beginnings, to his appearance in the premiere Paris season of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, to his eventual relocation to Los Angeles where, starting in 1916, he was an acclaimed character actor in nearly 30 silent movies, primarily directed by DeMille. At the outset of the Depression, with the advent of sound in cinema, DeMille relied upon Kosloff as an artistic advisor to bring to fruition Madam Satan his first and only movie musical. The essay analyzes the high-art roots of Kosloff's bizarre and exceptional ballet mécanique, Madam Satan's central dance number staged in a moored zeppelin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-195
Number of pages50
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Adolph Bolm
  • Agnes de Mille
  • Alexandra Baldina
  • Ballets Russes
  • Cecil B. DeMille
  • Cecilia DeMille Presley
  • David Guion
  • Elsie Janis
  • Gertude Hoffmann
  • Irving Thalberg
  • Italian Futurism
  • Jeanie Macpherson
  • Jesse Lasky
  • Kay Johnson
  • Leroy Prinz
  • Louis B. Mayer
  • Lynn Garafola
  • MGM
  • Madam Satan
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Michel Fokine
  • Mitchell Leisen
  • Nana Gollner
  • Natasha Rambova
  • Nijinsky
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Pete Smith
  • Russian Imperial Ballet
  • Sergei Diaghilev
  • Shingandi
  • Tamara Karsavina
  • The Hollywood Bowl
  • The King of Kings
  • The Mad Genius
  • The Spirit of the Factory
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Woman God Forgot
  • Theodore Kosloff
  • Vera Fredova
  • Zeppelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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